Thursday, June 5, 2008


Just for the record, I am never going to upload this many pictures ever again. With the internet being like it is, this has taken me nearly three hours. Enjoy looking at the pretty pictures. There's over 90 of them, and they have now got as much of a description as I am willin' to give them. If you have any questions about a single one, leave a comment, and I will answer.
To start with, an attempt at being artistic. Poppies! (I miss Poppy.) They grow wild here.During the apex of Siracusan prosperity (Greek, of course) the city built this fortress to defend its only remotely vulnerable flank. They did a good job. It doesn't look like much from here, but a lot of the fortifications remain. It was designed well to begin with, if you are into stuff that involves killing people, and it was bulked up by Archimedes as well. Just for laughs, I think I will go over what would happen to you if you were trying to take Castello Euryallo. First of all, you would approach the fort. It would probably be from this side, because on the other side there is a dizzying drop down a rocky cliff and to the plains of Syracuse. If you manage to get as close as this picture is taken from, then you are definitely in range of arrows, rocks, and other projectiles that would be fired at you from the five towers that you can see in the center of the fort. When the fort was intact they were much higher. Also, one of them has been entirely dismantled.
Here's a good shot of Siracusa from the Castello. This is where you would be trying to go.
As you get closer to the fort, you realize that you can't directly approach the towers. There is a deep trench in the way. In times of peace, there would have been a narrow bridge over this trench. In times of war, the bridge was destroyed, but it is possible to climb down into the trench. It is difficult for the people in the towers to fire at you while you are down in there, but that definitely does not save you. There would be more people standing at the top of the trench, throwing down all sorts of hard or sharp things on top of you...
And basically turning these trenches into avenues of death.

Finally you reach a series of holes carved into the cliff. They lead to a maze of tunnels which would have been occupied by enemy soldiers. A lot of them lead nowhere or to traps. Only one of them leads to the actual fort.
So just for funsies we decided to pick the wrong one. We came out on entirely the other side of the fort, still facing the onslaught of the towers and no closer to taking the interior of the fort.
Here are a couple of shots of the tunnels. They are so narrow that you can only walk two by two.
They were made in a hurry by cutting skylights straight down and carving out the rock in a series of steps before closing the hole in the top back up. It really is a wonder of engineering that they got all of the individual segments to match up perfectly.
Oh yeah. And there are forks in the tunnels. Fun, huh?
You finally come out, facing the wrong way, entirely disoriented and confused, on a pretty big area that would be perfect to stash a good number of soldiers. This is if you choose the correct tunnel. Well, at least you get a good view before you die.
If you manage to sop up the last of the soldiers, you still need to deal with the towers, which, may I remind you, are still filled with archers and other people of the projectile persuasion. Castello Euryallo was never taken successfully by force. Even the Roman commander, when he was told to take Siracusa, took one look at this place and said the Latin equivalent of "You've got to be joking." Instead, he bribed the commander of Castello Euryallo, and that is how the last polis in Sicily fell to the Romans.

To continue with Roman Sicily now. Few people actually think of this, but the church in Syracuse was actually mentioned by Saint Paul. Syracuse was the site of a very active group of early Christians. They were hit hard by early persecutions, and many early martyrs (can you say Santa Lucia?) were Siracusan. This church was built over the catacombs that were used by the early Christians. I want to say that the little chuch in the catacombs of San Giovanni was first used in 48 AD. The catacombs are actually a converted Greek aqueduct. Whenever something falls out of use in Sicily, it is either turned into a place to bury people or a church. In this case, it got turned into both. This building that we are looking at now is the ruined former Duomo of Syracuse. It got destroyed because of a massive earthquake, so it was abandoned in favor of the current Duomo.
This is the altar. Yes, cactuses do grow to be the size of trees here. It is pretty funny.
The rose window was added in by the normans. I thought it was pretty. I don't quite know what else to say.
I didn't end up getting any pictures of the catacombs. They were forbidden, and the tour guide was a little psycho about it, but here at least is the floor plan of the catacombs.

And here begins the pictures from my trip to Catania.
We went to a museum that was about World War II and the invasion of Sicily that occurred during it. Photography wasn't technically allowed, but I liked the uniforms. They also had examples of nearly all of these, but I was found out after only taking one picture.
Catania has the biggest market in the area, and we went on the biggest day. It was a madhouse. I really wanted to buy some food there because it was all really cheap, but instead I just ended up buying an espresso maker.
This is the Roman amphitheater in Catania. It is made of volcanic rock, so even though it has really been through everything imaginable, it still looks pretty good. Volcanic rock is incredible. They pave the roads with it here. It doesn't break. It only gets shinier, but even when it gets all polished, for some reason it has unusual gripping properties on rubber.
Catania is the hometown of Bellini, I think. There was at least a statue of him in one of the main piazzas.
Granita. Love it. Especially lemon.
Another shot of the Amphitheatre.
A picture of a church that was partially built on top of it. It's a pretty church.
A fascade of marble was originally placed over the lava rock to make it look more legit.

The duomo of Catania.
The theatre in Catania. Also made of volcanic rock. Still in fairly good condition, but it was sooooo hot.
A castle that was built in Catania on the coast right before a major lava flow from Etna. The lava destroyed the fortifications of the castle by filling it in, and filled in the coastline so that the castle was suddenly too far away to be useful. It got used for multiple things after that, a prison among them, but now it is an art museum.

A shot of an area where someone has dug away at the lava to expose some of the original fortifications. Looks much more impressive this way.
I fell in love with the ceiling in the towers.
A mosaic that was part of one of the exhibits.

Red figure vase.
The courtyard in the middle of the castle
When they kept prisoners in here, sometimes they provided a couple of chisels. This was made, evidently, by one of the prisoners. There is a whole series of them. There's also lots of inscriptions in different languages, poetry, and lots of tic marks to keep track of the days.

Another shot of the Duomo from another angle.
I don't know why I forgot to turn this, but here you go. I am not going to change it now. This is the symbol of Catania. Someone was conducting a dig, found an obelisk and a lava elephant, and put the two together and put it on a pedestal because it looked cool.
There are underground rivers flowing under the city. I wouldn't want to drink from them, but it's cool.
A streetside cafe, just so I have a picture of a stereotypical one.
I thought this building was pretty. There are patterns carved into all of the grey stones.
Took a little bit of thought for this one, but then I remembered what it was from. This is a Siracusa picture. Whenever I find a new one of these that I like, I am always tempted to take a picture. Some of them come out better that others. This is a Saint Lucy shrine. I liked it because she is actually depicted holding her eyeballs on a platter.

And this is the start of the Agrigento pictures.

The wrongfully named Temple of Hera.
A monumental altar, not nearly as big as the one at Syracuse.

What has been the most common picture so far on this blog? Yeah. here's some more tombs.
Temple of Concordia. Turned into a church, so it acquired some pretty arches in the cella and it got preserved over the years.

I will allow you only one guess as to what these are. Yup, more tombs.
Oleander. Poisonous, but you have to admit that it is beautiful.
Bourganvillea. I think that is how you spell it. These flowers are always the first to grow after a lava flow.
Temple of Hercules. It took five of us to reach around one column drum.

Temple of Olympian Zeus. Entirely destroyed by the Carthaginians when they took Agrigento because it was built using Carthaginian slave labor, and they were a bit unhappy about that.
This is how they would have lifted the blocks into place.
This is the size of one of the triglyphs for this temple. It is entirely massive. The biggest temple attempted at that time. Just considering how big it is makes my mind hurt. This isn't the full length of the triglyph. Half of it is buried. I could lie down in one of them and be comfortable. According to some accounts, people used to be able to hide in the ridges on the columns.

This is an altar for a chthonian god. Instead of the olympian gods, who got monumental altars that reached up to the sky, chtonian altars reached into the ground.
Another theatre of some type.

This is a giant from the temple of Olympian Zeus.
See those tiny people on the model of the temple, those are where the giants would go. Professor Metcalfe barely came up to a third of the way up the shin of the giant. That gives you an idea of the scale.
It's a rabbit!
These are the ancient equivalent of gargoyles only for temples.
Modern sculpture, but I thought it was pretty. It is actually by an American artist.

Another rabbit!

The following sculptures are for the sarcophagus of a child. The front shows his death. The sides show him with his mother and nurse as a baby and him at school riding a goat cart.

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